Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rogoff on the beach

Choreographer Tamar Rogoff and her team introduce their new project, Summer's Different.

Tamar Rogoff Performance Projects always promises something different. And, in that, Rogoff can deliver--setting a performance at mass graves in a Belarus forest to address the loss of her family members during the Holocaust; turning rooftops and community gardens of the Lower East Side into ancient and mythic Greece; engaging a surgeon and an actor with cerebral palsy to join the cast of another show. Now she's in the final stages of developing Summer's Different, a dance highlighting personal transformation and freedom through an increasingly turbulent beach idyll that features a cross-dressing dad, his wife and their loving, initially bewildered family.

The work opens at the Ellen Stewart Theatre at La MaMa on April 25, running through May 12, with an evocative sound score by Beo Morales, lighting by Joe Lavasseur and a multi-generational cast. The audience will be arranged so as to intimately share a sense of sun and sand with Brandin Steffenson and Emily Pope-Blackman (as the central couple), Deborah Gladstein and Peter Schmitz (as the wife's parents), and Emma Lee and Annabel Sexton-Daldry (as the couple's youngsters).

Last evening, Rogoff hosted a showing at Baryshnikov Arts Center, visions of fun-in-the-sun contrasting strangely, perhaps meaningfully with a creeping gloom and the frequent flash of thunderstorms seen through the studio's large windows. (She really should consider adding a stormy video as a surreal backdrop for this piece.) After the hour-long dance, the choreographer drew her small audience--friends, family and board members--into a focus group, taking notes on what elements worked well and perhaps not so well. The group seemed equally intrigued, troubled and moved, especially by Steffenson and Pope-Blackman's interactions and evolution. Both dancers deeply invest physical strength and risk, infusing these central roles with full-dimensional human presence and mystery. As I see it, the other performers, at least at this stage, provide scenic context and atmosphere, maybe a plot point or two. Meanwhile Steffenson and Pope-Blackman--individually and together--are the essential and excellent drivers of this work, giving it its reason for being.

For more information on Summer's Different, click here. For information on Rogoff's La MaMa season and to purchase tickets, click here.

La MaMa (Ellen Stewart Theatre)
66 East 4th Street (between Bowery and Second Avenue), Manhattan

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